David Binkowski | The Innovator 25
Charting the future of public relations
DavidBinkowskiThe Innovator 25:

David Binkowski

President & CEO, Large Media
Catskill Mountains, NY

Digital Marketing & Social Media
Recognized for taking what he learned in his large agency experiences, and applying it to a new type of firm that focuses on a balance, meaningful ideas and eschews the billing mentality.
 

Where does the PR industry need to innovate the most?

Planning & Measurement. Too few PR firms utilize data to make decisions pre-, during and post-campaigns. Hell, some even ignore it as to not report a failed campaign to a client. Until the industry evolves to be data-driven and abandon meaningless metrics it will struggle to earn the respect of the C-suite. Impressions no longer mean anything without direct ties to conversion and real ROI.

How innovative do you think the PR industry currently is?
Lagging other marketing disciplines. Public relations had the opportunity to dominate the social media space but startups and digital — and eventually ad agencies — stole their lunch. Instead of embracing technology and metrics they approached social and digital as an afterthought to their traditional PR plan and lost the war. If you look at “who owns social” today PR agencies simply aren’t even in the discussion, which is insane because it’s about conversation — something PR should have embraced immediately.

What is most important for the PR industry to do to foster more innovation?
All of the above.  The agency business model, especially under a holding company, is severely broken; continually squeezing profits while maintaining margins can be achievable but not without a loss of quality. Too many clients are having to teach the junior agency folks how to do their jobs while being billed for it.  Additionally, hiring specialists in an era of integrated marketing is a huge mistake. Clients expect holistic thinking to meet business and marketing goals, not niche tactics.  In terms of culture, it’s pretty apparent when you look at Glassdoor how broken the industry really has become. The number of negative reviews and criticisms speak for themselves.  Finally, reward employees beyond free booze. Allow them to take more risks and support a true culture of entrepreneurship — revenue sharing and career development — to foster a culture and environment of true differentiation.  

The most innovative PR/communications campaign in the last 12 months?
We work with a lot of startups, so watching the crowdfunding phenomenon dominate media and social newsfeeds is unlike anything most consumer or B2B brands have been able to achieve. It’s hard to pick out one campaign in particular, but when an 80 year old stranger in the Catskills tells you about one of your clients, well, I’d say those are pretty impactful campaigns.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider to be 'innovative.'
Aside from being an early adopter in the word of mouth marketing and social media movements, I believe the way in which Large Media works and was created is innovative; while most agencies seek big cities to call home, we purposefully zagged and left for the Catskill Mountains. When most agencies went to open office plans, we went the other way and adopted a home-office plan. And while all agencies meet regularly to discuss P&Ls, we allow our teams to focus on managing their projects and clients without pressure to make numbers. As a result of all of these things, we genuinely like one another and get a hell of a lot more work done. 

We are also able to fully focus on doing what is best for our clients — not for our bottom line.  By focusing on our work, our clients and their results —  not wasting our time marketing the agency to fill a leaking bucket, commuting back and forth to an office, holding pointless and endless meetings, and hiring  inexperienced staff who we intend to churn & burn  — we have built a stellar reputation and steady pipeline of referrals through word of mouth. 

I don’t believe any other agency can say they operate the way we do, nor do they have the number of client success stories based on actual sales numbers directly tied to their work in recent years.

How do you inspire innovation within yourself or to your team?
We have an internal saying that our agency has “no rules”. After some introspection, what started out as a joke among our team proved to be pretty accurate: I want our entire staff’s input, I want them to have a stake in their work and I want them to push boundaries and break things.  

This mindset most likely stems from the fact that our entire team is made up of people who are constantly learning and growing and have the freedom to explore and create outside of work. 

We have an incredible work/life balance because we’ve eliminated all of the aforementioned waste that most agencies subscribe to as part of their culture.   We’re also fortunate to work with a lot of founders from around the world on their startup projects, so we are literally surrounded by innovators in our day to day work which helps push our thinking and approach on every assignment. 

What’s the most innovative place in the world?
The easy answer is San Francisco/Silicon Valley, because that’s where the majority of the successful founders are based; the reality is that those ideas and companies were born all around the world, in different places — apartments, the pub, college dorm rooms. Innovation can live wherever a creative mind exists, but it’s hard — at least in the US — to ignore the entrepreneurial boom that the SF/Valley has experienced.

What's your favorite time of day and why?
Tough question. After toiling away working for other people for years I asked myself and my wife what our perfect life would look like, because we weren’t happy. Sure, we lived in a great neighborhood and had access to the greatest city in the world, but it didn’t equate to happiness. 

Since relocating to the Catskills and creating the life we wanted — which includes running our business on our terms —- there’s not a specific moment in the day that rates higher than others because I literally get to enjoy everything I love about life on a daily basis.